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One year to save NHS warn doctors

The British Medical Association (BMA) has warned that there is just one year left to save the NHS due to existing deficits and the end of record budget rises by 2008

The British Medical Association (BMA) has warned that there is just one year left to save the NHS due to existing deficits and the end of record budget rises by 2008.

BMA chairman, James Johnson, said the public would not understand why cuts were being made once spending was up to the level of the top-spending EU countries. He also added that questions might be asked about how the health system is funded if the problems are not resolved.

Over the past several years, the NHS has experienced annual budget increases of more than seven per cent to improve existing services. In 2008, however, this figure is predicted to fall back to a percentage just above inflation.

Johnson says that problems in the NHS remained despite the extra investment and that many trusts were in "quite dire financial straits", with big savings having to be made. Also poor workforce planning by the government has meant that some doctors and nurses could be forced to go abroad for work.

A leaked Department of Health document predicted an excess of more than 3,000 consultants in the NHS by 2010-2011, which the service could not afford to pay, with Johnson saying that the average GBP 250,000 spent on training them would be "completely wasted" if they went abroad for work.

Johnson also said that questions could be asked over whether the NHS can continue to provide everything, or if people needed to contribute toward their treatment, although this was not BMA policy. He added that assumptions that there was anything automatic about the NHS continuing into the future were wrong, citing the recent reorganisation of local health trusts, which had seen the number halved to around 150, had resulted in many public health doctors losing their jobs.

The reduction of public health doctors could damage the current drive to lower rates of smoking, obesity and sexually transmitted diseases, warned Johnson.

Health Secretary, Patricia Hewitt, countered by saying that government reforms were improving the health service and by the end of FY06, it would find itself back in balance as promised.

15th January 2007

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